The energy that comes as UNE welcomes a new cohort of students is refreshing. The passion that comes from people pursuing their aspirations is infectious. And, on behalf of returning students, welcome to UNE. If the new students will indulge me, a piece of advice if you have any query is ‘just ask’ and remember that while study is important, university is so much more.
Vice-Chancellor Jim Barber’s retirement is not going to solve the cultural problems amongst the administration at this university. The endemic toxic culture of ‘shooting the messenger’ that I have witnessed in my couple of years at UNE is rotting the heart of why and how this university exists. To set the administration up as infallible and to ostracise and ridicule anyone who disagrees is doomed to fail.
Where is UNE at and what of the Barber legacy? I have said on numerous occasions that the reputation of this institution is proud and more than a few generations of students have benefited from successful careers founded on a UNE degree. The erosion of respect for students and academics is the demise of a once proud history. On more than one occasion I have heard UNE described as a ‘sheltered workshop’ or variations of that. This is an outrageous and reprehensive example of the depth to which the morale of UNE has sunk. I cannot say that the Barber era is the start of this scandalous situation, I can only say it has, in my opinion, been granted a stay of execution.
To me it is evident that there are members of senior UNE administration who do not respect the current crop of tertiary students. If they do not respect the current students how can the UNE administration possibly walk the talk of the UNE strategic plan, and how can they gain the attention and respect of the UNE students and alumni? This is a brick-wall paradigm that I rail against because somehow at UNE students have no valid opinion or worth beyond dollars.
I am interested in a long-worn phrase that I have heard here: that you cannot look to the past for the answer and for a vision of the future. I beg to differ—the graduates of this university have taken the learning from this institution, are forging a future, and by extension have some very real, pertinent lessons for the cracked and broken UNE tertiary model of the present.
The UNE Student Association would not exist at the university if UNE administration had been responsible enough to manage student amenity. This week it has been revealed that of the $300,000 UNE allocated to ServicesUNE for student amenity, $100,000 went to directly subsidising the Booloomimbah Collection: effectively a discount for administration staff. In the meantime a coffee and a dodgy sandwich at the apply named Grind & Squeeze cost $1.50 more than at ‘Bool’. UNESA has restored the student voice at UNE and, although starting from an impossibly low base, has managed to make its way to a presence that cannot be ignored.
I was hoping that this note from the President’s desk might be upbeat. There are plenty of good things to celebrate, not least of which is to welcome in a new year, new students and—sometime this year—a new Vice-Chancellor. The energy and aspirations of the next generation are held in the lecture halls, textbooks and ether that is the unique experience of studying at UNE. Good luck pursuing your aspirations in 2014.
David Mailler, UNESA President